Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Really? 20 Years?!

Donald Raymond Burch
March 13, 1929 - December 26, 1992

December 26, 1992.

That was the saddest day of my life, so far. It was the day I had to say my final good bye to my dad.

It's hard to believe it's been 20 years.

People always say when you lose a loved one, there will be good days and there will be bad days. And that you never really get over it. And that the grief will come out of no where. That was true in the beginning, for sure. Over the years, those bad days have been less, but I had no idea that 20 years later, grief would still sneak up on me.

This year, it has definitely snuck up on me. I don't know if it's because it's the 20 year mark or if it's because - now don't laugh - K and I watched the movie The Last Song around Thanksgiving. It was my second attempt trying to get through that movie because Miley Cyrus ruins it for me. (I don't think there is a worse actress out there that gets on my nerves quite like she does.)

If you haven't seen the movie, in a nutshell, she's a teenage girl that despises her parents and she finds out her dad has cancer. She gets the chance to spend time with him, get to know him and care for him as he's fighting his losing battle against cancer.

February 12, 1971
This made me sad as I reflected back on me losing my dad. When my dad was dying, it was just me and my mom at home. My siblings were adults and on their own or going to college so my mom and I were the ones there 24/7. I was just 14 years old. I say my mom and I were his primary care givers, but it was mostly my mom. (The strength she had during that time amazes me. She was strong for him, strong for us, and strong for herself. She deserves a medal of honor!)

Like I said, I was 14. I don't think I fully understood that my dad was dying and what that really meant. It meant that this was my last chance with him - and I wasted it. I mostly hid and ran from what was happening once he started going downhill. I remember trying to always be somewhere else - friends houses, neighbors houses, anywhere but home - and when I was home, I remember being locked in my room as much as possible.

Watching The Last Song, I realized how I cheated myself out of the last moments I would ever have with my dad. This broke me. All that time I spent in my room, I should have been at his side. Even if it was to just watch TV... to sit in silence. At least I was with him. Those times I escaped to friends and neighbors, I should have been hanging out with him.

Less than thrilled with my teenage shenanigans.
Possibly April of 1992
Should have, could have, would have... but didn't. I don't beat myself up for not handling it differently. I was just 14. I didn't know better. Sure, I knew about death - I had lost grandparents, but nothing can prepare you for the loss of a parent. Especially not at 14. So I am forgiving with myself that I didn't handle it then the way I would now, but that doesn't mean it doesn't still make me sad that it wasn't different.

Sometimes when people lose loved ones they have a hard time letting go of their grief because they believe that by letting go of their grief, they will somehow forget the one they're grieving. For me, that wasn't really an issue. I always thought - how could I ever forget my dad?! And then there was the day I realized that I had forgotten what my dad's voice sounded like. I just sobbed. It felt terrible. I had forgotten. My dad was a traveling salesman and every other week when he was out of town, we'd talk on the phone... and now I wouldn't even know his voice if he called me. It was a gut wrenching realization. I was sad for me. I was devastated for him - did he know I had forgotten and was he hurt that I could forget?! I felt almost like I had abandoned him somehow.

I wasn't just cheated out of his death, I was cheated out of his life, too. There were moments growing up that I wished he could have been there for - learning to drive, buying my first car, wrecking my first car, graduating high school, my wedding. You know, those big moments in life that parents are supposed to be a part of. (Thankfully, my mom was still a part of all those moments - I couldn't even fathom not having her to always depend on!)

He got the opportunity to watch one out of three of his daughters graduate high school, graduate college, and walk her down the aisle. She got everything I didn't and I think how lucky she is to have had all that with him. However, she thinks I am the lucky one because she says I got more of him than any of the rest of the kids because he had a home office that he worked from when he was home so he was around more when I was growing up. Believe me, I cherish the memories I do have of that time... I just feel like I didn't value those moments back then like I would have later in my life. At the same time, I watched my other sister go through some very tough times with my dad in her teenage years - times I would not have wanted to go through with him.

I feel like I missed out on so much. He missed out on so much. We all missed out on so much! My dad died seven months before his first grandson was born. Oh, how I think he would have loved his grandkids and how they would have loved him!

It's hard to believe it's been 20 years. In my own mind, I guess I thought that after 20 years, his death wouldn't still haunt me. I was wrong. For whatever reason, the loss of my dad is weighing heavy in my heart this year. The grief doesn't cripple me like it did in the beginning, but it still lingers.

Yesterday, on my way to work I was thinking about that last Christmas as I fought back the tears. That Christmas was a tough one, to say the least. He was too incoherent to partake in and Christmas activities - not that there were many that year - but it was the last time his whole family was all together under the same roof. (At least I think we were - for some reason, I think my one sister might not have been there on Christmas, but I cant imagine her not being there with how sick my dad was.) Although he wasn't coherent, I do believe that he somehow knew that it was Christmas and that his family was all there because he held on and made it through the day.

I know that my dad is still watching over us... I feel him the most when I am playing cards and people get pissed because I am relentless and kicking their butts (unless I am playing my mom - he's on her side then.) LOL But, what I wouldn't do for more time with him. A year, a month, a day, an hour, a moment... whatever it is, I would do just about anything for a direct connection to him again.

What advice would he give me? What life lessons would he want to teach me? What might he say to me? What would I say to him? Would he be proud? Is he proud?

So today, I will remember my dad. I will take the time to light a candle in his honor and think about the man he was - not perfect by any means, but at minimum, a good man, a good Dad. Some people don't ever get a chance to even meet their dad's. Some know them, but wish they didn't. While I feel the loss, I recognize the treasure I had in getting to have my dad for the time I did and knowing he was the best Dad he knew how to be!

November 1992


  1. aw friend. I'm glad you're forgiving your 14 year old self for reacting that way...also I love that you honored him with this post. Furthermore I LOVE the throwback pictures! It sounds like he was a wonderful person, I'm sorry you didn't get more time with him.

  2. Awww. Such a beautiful post! I love hearing your stories and seeing your old pics. I know he would be so proud of who you are today. You are awesome! And I love that playing cards makes you feel closer to him. There aren't any home videos you could watch? I'm sorry you have to deal with the sadness. =(

    ps... I like Miley Cyrus. I don't know much about her acting but I love her style and like her music. =)